I just picked up a replacement for the old Canon Powershot S70 I’ve been using mostly underwater. It’s not really the best time for me to be buying a camera, but I’ve been noticing for a while that the pictures it takes above water have been very unsharp, and I want something I can trust in Bonaire. I bought it off of eBay for about $200, and repairing it is probably not cost effective. I’m still getting used to the new camera and haven’t even taken the housing out of the box yet.
Most of the major functions, at least, most of the ones that I care about, I was able to figure out just by noodling around with it. But it’s definitely a good example of both the good and bad sides of Japanese design. After using the iPhone and iPad, it’s really noticeable.
On the pro side, the picture quality is very good, and the camera feels solid. Because it’s a prosumer camera, there are separate dials for exposure compensation, shooting mode and ISO. On the con side, I would quibble with the placement of some of the controls — the zoom lever feels awkward to me, for example.
A bigger problem is that it feels like there are a lot of features and modes that are there to be a checkmark on a feature list, not to be useful. This thing actually has a mode to automatically shoot when it detects a smile, for example. I am not making it up, it really does. But to put it in that mode, you have to set the mode dial to scene mode, press the function button, scroll through a bunch of shooting modes (to give them credit, it does have help text), press the function button again, then press the DISP button to choose which of the smart shutter mode you want.
I worked my way through the manual (provided as a pdf, not a physical booklet) and there’s a lot of stuff that might look good on a feature comparison chart, but which I can’t see myself using, either because the feature is too cumbersome, or the feature is too esoteric, or provides an effect I don’t care about, or would prefer to do on the computer. There are several special effects settings that fall under this category, such as color replacement, which I would prefer to do as post-processing. And some of the special modes are just head scratchers… a special mode to make your scene look like it’s a miniature? Really??? (Yes, really.)
By way of contrast, the Apple design ethic calls for fewer features, fewer discrete modes, but more polish on the features that are provided. Had Apple designed it, there definitely would be less flexibility, fewer half-assed shooting modes, and those that were implemented wouldn’t need a long series of key presses. They’d probably also get rid of a lot of the physical button in favor of a touch screen… which is probably not so good for a camera which is supposed to be used inside a housing.
Still, I have to say I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do underwater with this. I took it out for a spin on Saturday up to Cape Ann, and it was very fast, and the picture quality is good: